I offer this packing list as a starting point for your own Baja moto adventure knowing that if you’re riding a BMW GS Adventure your list will be different than somebody who’s cruising on their Harley or single-tracking on a KTM 500 EXC. Likewise, if you’re sticking to the road and moteling it, your load will be a lot lighter than someone who’s camping out. I’d love to get your list of essential items–please contribute in the comments section at the end of this piece. Thanks!
My KLR is outfitted with the Giant Loop Great Basin, dry bag, and tank bag.
Documents, Insurance, and Money
This one’s for everybody! You’ll need your passport, drivers license, FMM tourist card, vehicle insurance documents plus Mexican vehicle insurance documents, medical information and insurance cards, and documentation of any additional emergency medical evacuation insurance you may have purchased.
Credit cards come in handy too, but you can’t buy gas with them outside of the big cities.
The best place to change your dollars into pesos is just inside the border. You’ll get the best rate there. You’ll get the worst rate at Pemex stations.
I change money at the grocery stores in Mulegé because the ATM machine in town stopped working for foreign accounts last year. If I run out of cash I send it to myself using Western Union. I recommend creating a free account before you leave.
Your moto gear is going to depend on what kind of riding you’re doing and your bike, of course.
GS Adventure folks love their BMW hard panniers though BMW Motorrad now offers soft Atacama Adventure Luggage by Mosko Moto.
For my KLR and KTM 450, I have used Giant Loop’s extremely rugged soft luggage for about a decade with little noticeable wear. You can either stuff everything in the one big bag or sort your things in the supplied smaller, interior bags.
Mosko Moto‘s equally high-quality and well-thought-out bags have a pocket for everything, which will appeal to you uber-organizer types.
Also popular with the adventure moto crowd is the Wolfman brand. I use a pair of their smaller Rolie dry bags with the tank pannier kit to carry heavy items like tools on the front of the bike.
All the above are pretty expensive. For a smaller cash outlay check out the brightly-colored Nelson-Rigg brand that fits on any motorcycle.
Giant Loop also offers a fuel bladder in a 1- and 2-gallon size that packs up flat when not in use. If you’re an adventurous off-road explorer you’ll really appreciate the confidence that extra range gives you.
Consider Giant Loop’s Bushwackers Hand Guards, as well, to protect your hands, if you’re one of those very adventurous riders who like to go bushwacking on single-track. Cactus spines hurt!
I have several tank bags in various sizes for various bikes. I like the small, rugged, and waterproof Giant Loop Diablo tank bag for my KTM 450 and the roomier Enduristan Sandstorm 3E bag for my bigger bikes. But I think you’ll see the adventure rider crowd flocking to Mosko Moto’s new Nomad Tank Bag because it also functions as a hydration pack, backpack, map holder, and camera bag that unclips from your bike in seconds.
The Tracker Packer for Garmin InReach ($50)is a handy addition, too.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make traveling easier. I carry more ROK straps than I need to help all the riders with bungled bungees and inadequate packing techniques. Rok-straps also make great gifts for local mechanics and ranchers.
I also carry Giant Loop’s tow strap, just in case.
You may also be interested in mounting a cooler bag on your tail rack. The $99 RTIC 20 Soft Pack claims to keep ice up to 5 days. I haven’t tried it yet, but if it keeps it cold even for 2 days, I’ll be happy!
Bring a hydration pack, please! If you carry a water bottle in your tank bag you won’t drink as much as you need and you can get dehydrated, headachy, grumpy, and that’s neither safe nor fun. My favorite is the $130 Geigerrig 2-liter pressurized system.
Tools & Repair Kits
While there are lots of llanteras (tire repair shops) and competent mechanics everywhere in Baja, it’s best to be prepared with your own toolkit. So bring it along, and the manual, if you have it.
Zip ties in assorted sizes are always handy, along with electrical and duct tape, stainless steel bailing wire, spare fuses, and a tire repair and inflation kit. A popular, reliable kit is the Best Rest CyclePump Expedition Tire Inflator.
Bring a multimeter, too, even if you don’t know how to use it. A couple of years ago a mechanic fixed my friend’s motorcycle, but first we had to go buy the multimeter because he didn’t have one.
Consider installing a tool tube to carry some of this stuff, too. (Or the Wolfman Rolie bags described above.)
This should go without saying but I will. Please wear a full-face helmet (I love my Schuberth modular), gloves, dual-sport boots, jacket, and pants or under armor. I’ve replaced all the pads in my gear with D30 for greater protection.
Lots of people are using motocross gear these days because of its versatility and I’ll probably go that way, too, if my Olympia Moto Sports mesh gear ever wears out!
You can layer on anything over motocross gear, such as Kevlar reinforced jeans. I met a guy cruising on a Harley wearing jeans and a white button-down SPF shirt and thought he was nuts, but it turns out he had on a full set of motocross gear underneath.
Leatt is a brand that offers a line of high-quality body protection, elbow and knee guards.
Pack 2 pairs of lightweight wool or Coolmax socks for riding and consider an anti-odor compression and wicking base layer for staying cool, like Alpinestars Ride Tech. You can go cheaper at CycleGear with their Sedici brand.
For a more in-depth review of motorcycle gear, see this post.
You may love sleeping under the stars but a lightweight tent will keep out pesky critters like scorpions and snakes. Check this article by Jenny Smith who recommends the Marmot LimeLight 2 person tent (lots of mesh, lightweight, easy to set up, star-gazing mesh on top). Just add a sleeping bag and pad and maybe a camp pillow if a rolled-up sweater isn’t comfy enough.
A JetBoil is fast and easy but uses disposable canisters, which are convenient but bulky and polluting. Besides, it’s tough to make huevos rancheros in a JetBoil. Consider an MSR Dragonfly stove, which gives you more fuel options and you can use your own pans.
Eat from your pans or bring a couple of plates, tumblers, and cutlery.
Clothing and Personal
Start with a pair of lightweight convertible pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sweater for cool nights, 2 changes of undies, lightweight trail runners and socks for hiking, flip-flops, bathing suit, a towel, sarong, and toilet kit. I pack a sundress, too.
Don’t forget your meds. And, by the way, if you are on any high-priced prescriptions, you can get them for a fraction of the cost in the big cities in Mexico. The small towns like Mulegé (and even Santa Rosalia and Loreto) don’t have much selection.
Sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with good lenses are essentials! I like LaRoche Posay for face. It seems to melt in and not rub off. With other brands, I get sunburnt under my eyes. Zinc also works for me, and it comes in fun colors, too!
Besides a bathing suit, consider swim leggings and a long-sleeved rash guard so you can spend lots of time in the water without sunburning. (I’ve found that these items are also quite comfortable as a base layer under motorcycle gear.)
Water shoes can come in very handy on rocky shores and are also great for footwear around the campsite.
The aforementioned zinc sunblock works great in the water.
Finally, don’t forget to pack some snorkel gear. There’s a lot to see under the water. You’ll be glad you did!
What did I forget?
Okay… what have I forgotten? I’m counting on you! Please add your essentials in the comments below. Thanks!
Carla King has been writing about her motorcycle adventure travels since 1995. You can read about her misadventures in North America, China, Europe, India, and Africa at CarlaKing.com and also visit her Baja ADV channel.